Required Reading

Former State Department Syria hand Frederic Hof writes how he got it wrong:

That Russia’s recent military intervention in Syria has shocked the Obama administration is itself no surprise. For nearly two years, Washington had chased Moscow diplomatically in the belief that the Kremlin’s soothing words about supporting political transition in Syria were truthful. That which was obvious to many—Russia’s desire to perpetuate Assad in office—is now jarringly clear to the administration. That training and equipping anti-Assad rebels to fight anyone but Assad has been dropped like a bad habit by an administration warned not to proceed along these lines is hardly a bolt from the blue. But the White House is not alone in failing to accurately forecast the severity of the Syrian disaster.

The major reason for my lack of foresight: It didn’t have to turn out this way, and I remain mildly surprised that it did. It is not that Syrians were without grievances concerning the way they were being governed. Widespread unemployment, underemployment and opportunity deficits were already prompting those with means among the best and brightest to leave the country. Although the regime’s corruption, incompetence and brutal intolerance of dissent were hardly state secrets, Assad was not universally associated by Syrians with the system’s worst aspects: “If only the president knew” was a phrase one heard often.

There’s a lot of that going around.

Anyway, read the whole thing.